Updated: Jan 22
Welcome back to the Coffee series! Yes, I’m still on this coffee hype. Why? Because I work in the coffee industry, that’s why. I may no longer be a barista, but I still have a lot to tell about our caffeine-filled fuel. Today’s post will be all about the two main ways coffee is processed, before it’s roasted.
That’s right, there are a few steps between growing the beans and roasting them. First is obviously the harvesting of the beans, since someone has to get them from the plants to the factory. The second is the way in which coffee is processed. There are two, there’s the dry process and the wet, or washed, process.
Ok, let me break it down for you guys. Like all berries and plants, the coffee beans are picked, when they’re ripe. There are two ways this can be done. Most of the time they’re hand-picked, because the areas Arabica coffee (which are the more common and “higher quality” beans) is grown are inaccessible to machines. The other method is through machine farming, and they are usually used for Robusta beans, which can be grown on flatter lands.
Now comes the process. Again, there are two ways that this happens. Dried, which is the more natural way to process the beans, is done when the beans are still inside the cherry. They’re sundried, basically. So, they sit in the sun for hours, until they are de-pulped, or the cherry is stripped from the bean.
The second way is through the wet or washed process. So, the beans are de-pulped first, then washed so that the residue from the cherry is completely washed off. After that, they’re dried and ready to send off to the roasters.
What's The Difference?
Well, a lot of things actually. The dry processed coffee retains all the flavours and natural sugars of its cherry, so there’s more body to the bean. That means it’s sweeter and has a less acidic flavour to it.
The washed process means that the coffee has less sugars, so it’s more acidic and cleaner. Think of it this way, have you ever had an espresso? Did it taste a little tangy to you? Then, more likely than not the beans used for that coffee was washed.
If your espresso tastes sweet, or had a subtle flavour, the beans were probably naturally dried, but a lot of the time, you’ll get a mixture of both, since coffee houses (I mean those who decide what coffee tastes they’re going for) like to blend their coffees together.
It’s also good to know that the place in which coffee is grown also affects the taste. A lot of the time you’ll hear in coffee shops, that South American coffee has a nutty flavour, or those grown in Africa have a fruitier taste. It’s because of the soil content in those environments. What’s the soil content you ask? I have no clue. I’m not an expert in that field, so I couldn’t tell you, but if I had to guess, it’s probably because of the acidity or the alkalinity of the soil…Basically science!
Now The Fun Part...Almost
So, you know now that different methods of picking and processing can affect the coffee. It’s time to know about the roast. This part is probably one of the more interesting parts for you guys, because the roast is what defines the coffee for you, or at least some of you.
If you have a light roast, you’re definitely going to get a less bitter coffee, because the natural oils of the coffee don’t coat the beans, since the time and temperature it takes to roast coffee doesn’t encourage the bleed, it also retains the flavour profile of the country they’re grown in. A medium roast will have a little more body, while keeping the flavour profile of its country of origin, but it still won’t have the oil coating. Dark roast, which is probably the one most coffee houses use, and the one you’re probably going for, does have a coat of oil, and it’s because it’s roasted at a higher temperatures and for a longer period that the coffee starts to become bitter, it’s because of this that the beans also loses some of the profile that define its origin.
What I mean is if you’ve seen a Starbucks poster for their blonde roast, compared to their regular roast, you’ll see there’s a major difference, and if you ordered one of each, you’ll taste the difference. The blonde roast doesn’t taste as bitter as their regular roast, right? It’s because the blonde roast has had less time to release their flavours in the heating process.
So, yes, the roast highly influences the taste of the coffee. Ok, I’ll leave it there for now, because that’s a lot to take in, and if you really wanted to go in detail, well, it’ll take much more than a short post. For now, we’ll leave it here. So, I’ll see you guys next time, when we’re ready to grind the beans and make the coffee!